backpack Knomo

LONDON — Knomo, the British accessories label known for its handbags and tech accessories, has secured 3 million pounds, or $3.7 million, in funding by the private equity firm Rockpool.

The investment will go toward spearheading the brand’s expansion in the U.S., as well as the opening a retail space in London’s Covent Garden.

The London space will be the brand’s flagship. In addition to selling Knomo products, it will function as a community working space, catering to those who work on-the-go, and reflecting the brand’s ethos of providing well-made accessories of a utilitarian nature for “digital nomads.” Five such retail spaces are planned to open in London over the next three years.

“Living and working on the move is becoming a mainstream lifestyle choice. The loyal customer community and innovative approach to design ideally equips the team to develop Knomo into a global brand,” said Tommy O’ Sullivan, Rockpool’s investment director.

Knomo has already secured partnerships with a range of retailers across the U.S., including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Anthropologie. It will also be launching in Selfridges’ technology department later this year.

Harrison said this is the first time the brand will have retail presence within the department store environment.

“Our traditional wholesale has been across travel, duty-free and we’re also in some Apple premium environments, but the department store environment wasn’t a key focus. You are either on the ground floor’s fashion sections or in travel. What we saw in the last season however, is that Macy’s stores are launching a tech area around Christmas that is going to be next to women’s accessories, but by telling that technology story, Saks is also looking to do something similar,” said Harrison, adding that the brand wants to be mainly recognized for its technology products and for catering to people with fast lifestyles who work beyond the traditional 9 to 5.

This is a message that can appeal to a broad demographic across the wide range of retailers the company is partnering with. “We want to be known for our tech product, and we don’t see ourselves as high-fashion. Instead we want to offer the product that organizes your daily life. So, the team of retailers we are partnering with can tell this story, and merchandize our range appropriately, something that can be done in quite a broad range of retailers,” said Harrison.

The brand is not looking to expand its product range as it grows internationally. Instead it will focus on updating its current offer to make the accessories smarter and more efficient. Women’s backpacks are among the best-selling styles and the brand plans to push them further with the launch of a 24-7 range that can be used for work and holiday. In addition, some of the most popular styles have been the most expensive of the range, so there are also plans to create more premium styles using leather instead of nylon.

“The ecosystem of products that we are developing is how to make your bag smarter and keep you organized on the go. We want to deliver much better products compared to fashion brands, by making sure that our product is the indispensable accessory that you need every day,” said Harrison.

Prices range from 25 pounds, or $30, for an iPhone case to 350 pounds, or $427, for a leather backpack.

The company’s new retail deals will increase the brand’s sales in the U.S. by 45 percent, with 60 percent of the sales being done via its own e-commerce, a rate that is growing.

Knomo was previously present in the U.S. through a joint venture, but having bought back the business in its entirety, Harrison said they will be investing in building a dedicated U.S. team from the ground up. However, the company remains open to partnerships and is in the process of appointing new partners in order to enter the Japanese and Middle Eastern markets.

Marketing initiatives are another focus for the brand as part of its growth strategy and they will revolve entirely around digital content, including video, to promote key product launches such as a technologically advanced “Inductive Charging” bag and a collaboration with the Victoria & Albert museum launching in 2017.

“Looking at it in terms of return-of-investment, we are getting a lot of customer engagement through digital and social promotions and when it comes to innovations such as the inductive charging bag, we definitely believe we can get the message out there with digital,” said Harrison.

The company has also announced two senior appointments. Fred Edwards, who previously worked on the restaurant chain Hummus Brothers, has been named chief operating officer and Simon Wilkinson, whose background includes a series of marketing roles for footwear label Dr. Martens and British men’s retailer Charles Tyrwhitt, is the brand’s new digital director. Wilkinson and Edwards will work toward building a new e-commerce channel for the brand and improving customer experience.

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